Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation

The line between appreciation and exploitation
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In honor of the annual Coachella season’s commencement this past week, I’d like to once again highlight the discussion surrounding cultural appropriation. From bindis, through feathered head ornaments and dashikis, all the way to war paint, the festival’s fashion scene has it all. The issue here is not people being keen on sporting items of clothing or accessories that have symbolic connotations in certain cultures, but rather they, as members of a dominant group, often tending to exploit the heritage of marginalized ones without previous consideration.

One definition, as given by Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, is, ‘’taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.’’

More often than not, these appropriations come in the form of a passing fad, be it twerking when it was ‘in’ not as a result of a newly found appreciation and understanding of African-American culture, but due to a music video featuring Miley Cyrus adopting it as yet another sign of her path to self-discovery. Or when cornrows and dreadlocks are admired and requested simply because individuals with large public followings like the Kardashians or Katy Perry were seen wearing them, and not as, for example, a protest against the stigma which exists of these hairstyles being ‘unsanitary’ and ‘unprofessional’. For black people especially, cornrows and dreadlocks can act as an immediate rejection when applying for a job, whereas for white people they are seen as ‘edgy’ or ‘unique’.

Changing or even getting rid of oppressive actions that have made their way into everyday interactions is no easy task. The Coachella debate for one, is not about denying people of different cultures the use of aspects of one which is not their own, but about doing it without a thought. Diversity in society is an inherently good thing, but it is not achieved through only paying attention to certain cultures when it is suitable, or when it benefits an individual who has no experience being a member of an ostracized group. If you know you’re about to use a symbol or an element of a culture which is not your known, learning about the context and its history can be the first step in avoiding contributing to cultural appropriation.
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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Be White Feminists

I am white. I am a feminist. But I try very hard to avoid being a "white feminist."

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Preamble 1: I'm not sure if you're aware, but it's a humid, grey April afternoon and being a woman comes with extra challenges, to which I definitely did not agree but they were probably in some fine print that I skimmed. Bummer. Anyway, feminism! Feminism's place in 2019 is contested but I am coming from a place of having heard many of the sides; given that, it would be lovely if you would hear my side.

Preamble 2: Before I get into this topic, I want to acknowledge the place of privilege from which I come. Look at my fully Irish name, I am white. Believing in social, economic, and political gender equality, I am a feminist. But I try very hard to avoid being a "white feminist". As a student at Texas A&M;, a university that sometimes strays into homogeneity in both thought and demographic, I've been noticing a pattern in many conversations concerning gender equality. The pattern is that of white feminism.

White feminism is a Western-styled picking and choosing of feminism that entails a set of beliefs tolerating the ignorance of issues that mostly impact women of color.

Contrast this philosophy with intersectional feminism, which recognizes multiple identities and experiences within us, while promoting more united gender equality. Without intersectionality, our essence cannot stand against oppression and stand for equality without acknowledgment of the nuances of different historical struggles. As women, we face difficulties, but not all women face the same oppressions and marginalizations – and that cannot be overlooked in narratives.

As far as gendered-based violence goes, the Justice Department estimates that one in five women and one in seventy-one men will experience rape in the US. However, here's where the necessary nuances come in.

Women and men of color are more likely to experience this form of violence than white women or men. Women and men who are LGBTQ+are more likely to experience this form of violence than straight women or men. Lower income women and men are more likely to experience this form of violence than women or men in the highest income brackets.

So, yes, one in five women and one in seventy-one men are rape victims. But quoting that statistic without disambiguating the data can mislead readers or listeners of the ways that different identities amalgamate into this final number. Essentially, disproportional oppressions exist. All people are at risk for gendered violence, specifically rape, in America, but some people are more at risk.

If you need more of an explanation, think of the following analogy. White feminism is to intersectional feminism what #AllLivesMatter is to #BlackLivesMatter. Everyday Feminism contends, "the former's attempt at inclusiveness can actually erase the latter's acknowledgment of a unique issue that disproportionately affects a specific group of people".

If you ever find yourself guilty of white feminism, (I've been there!) know that we are all evolving. As long as you are open to education, we are all on the same side.

Here are three vital steps you can take to make your feminism intersectional!

1. Reflect on yourself. 

Reflect on your long-held beliefs based on your perspective alone could not apply to someone else. Reflect on your privileged experiences and acknowledge them for what they are.

2. Think about others. 

Once you've figured your internal state out from step one, you ought to look at the experiences of others with the same level of validity as your own. Ethically, feminism focuses on equality. Yes, that means stopping sexism, but it also expands to mean stopping complicated systemic oppressions that affect more than just white women. That said, white feminists are not the enemy in the fight for equality, rather, they are underinformed.

3. Don’t be afraid to grow. 

Say you were wrong. There's less shame in it than you think. In fact, I genuinely wish our culture was more forgiving of people who made an honest mistake in their past, but their hearts were/are in the right place.

Allow yourself to move onwards and upwards. We are all works-in-progress. We are all striving for better versions of ourselves. Intention is everything and your intention should be to always learn.

Intersectional feminism is challenging, like all educations. If you're doing it right, it should force you to think and even make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. After all, while feminism is here to help, it is not here for your (or my) comfort.

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